24 January 2017

Reviw: THE DALAI LAMA'S CAT, David Michie

  • this edition published 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4019-4058-4
  • 216 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

“In the months that followed I watched His Holiness working on a new book . . . I began to think that perhaps the time had come for me to turn my paws to a book of my own . . . one that tells my own tale . . . How I was rescued from a fate too grisly to contemplate, to become constant companion to a man who is not only one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but who is also a dab hand with the can opener.”

Not so much fly-on-the-wall as cat-on-the-sill, this is the warmhearted tale of a small kitten rescued from the slums of New Delhi who finds herself in a beautiful sanctuary with sweeping views of the snow-capped Himalayas. In her exotic new home, the Dalai Lama’s cat encounters Hollywood stars, Buddhist masters, Ivy-league professors, famous philanthropists, and a host of other people who come visiting His Holiness. Each encounter offers a fresh insight into finding happiness and meaning in the midst of a life of busy-ness and challenge. Drawing us into her world with her adorable but all-too-flawed personality, the Dalai Lama’s cat discovers how instead of trying to change the world, changing the way we experience the world is the key to true contentment.

Featuring a delightful cast of characters, timeless Buddhist wisdom, and His Holiness’s compassion pervading every chapter, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is simply enchanting.

My Take

This book came to me recommended by at least two members of my U3A reading group, whose job in life is to get me to read something other than crime fiction. Being possessed by a cat, how could I resist?

Told as snippets in the life of HHC (His Holiness' Cat), each tale has embedded within some Buddhist teaching. It is delightfully written and is a good reminder that there is something other can crime fiction.

I imagined that perhaps the stories come from real interviews with the Dalia Lama especially as I recognised one or two of His Holiness's visitors, whom of course the cat can't name.

Good reading.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
David Michie is the internationally best-selling author of a number of books about mindfulness, meditation and Buddhism. These include the non-fiction titles ‘Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate’, ‘Hurry Up and Meditate’ and ‘Buddhism for Busy People’, as well as his popular novel series ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’. His books are available in 25 languages in over 30 different countries.

23 January 2017


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2131 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Coffeetown Press (June 18, 2015)
  • Publication Date: June 18, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0100Q4ZUO
  • Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Synopsis (Amazon)

Recuperating from an injury and prompted by an eager young nurse, old-timer Gunnar Nilson looks back at one of his big cases as a private eye in 1950.

At that time memories of World War II were still fresh, and Seattle was a cultural backwater. The Ballard neighborhood where he hung out his shingle teemed with working-class folk of Scandinavian descent. Gals with hourglass figures and gimlet eyes enticed men in gray flannel suits with cigarettes dangling from their lips.

The case he recounts involves the murder of one of these beauties. Gunnar’s business card is in her pocket, but she’s no client. She’s just a gal he met at the movies; he gave her a ride home and helped her lose the creep who was tailing her. It’s none of Gunnar’s business who killed her, not until he discovers she dated the godson of a wealthy client, a man who’s willing to pay big bucks for Gunnar to nose around. Nose around he does, in the perfumed rooms of Fasciné Expressions, a “rooster paradise” that employed the murdered girl and is frequented by the godson. Schooled to be class acts by a former showgirl, these fine-feathered hens know how to inspire a man to spend big on gifts for his lady. Gunnar believes the victim was killed by one of her customers, but the heady fragrance of perfumed female can make it awfully tough for a guy to think clearly, especially when the killer is also breathing down his neck.

My Take

After a fall from his roof, breaking his leg, Gunnar Nilson (who must be at least in his late 70s) is spending some time in an assisted living home in Everett, Washington. The date is Monday June 2 2003. He aqppears to have been in the home for a week or two.

His new caregiver is young Kirsti Liddell, working at the home for the summer. Kirsti finds out that Gunnar was once a private investigator in Seattle. She persuades him to spend time with her when she is off duty telling her about one of his cases. She proposes to make a written record of her interviews which she can submit for an extra credit paper in her college course.

Gunnar chooses an investigation into a murder that began over 50 years earlier, June 7, 1950.

This provides an interesting plot construct. Kirsti records Gunnar's story on a tape recorder so that she can transcribe it. Their interviews take place over a number of sessions.

Seattle has changed a lot in 50 years, and of course in 1950 the second World War is only just over, so Gunnar is able to talk about how the war affected various people, and what life was like then. The novel is filled with interesting characters particularly those who live in the boarding house where Gunnar resides.

This is a debut title. 

My Rating 4.2

About the author
T.W. Emory was born in Seattle, and is of Swedish-Norwegian heritage, which helps explain the little bit of Scandinavian flavoring to his post WWII Seattle-based detective novel, “Trouble in Rooster Paradise.” He lives and experiences his workaday world north of Seattle. He is an avid reader, and in addition to writing mystery fiction in his off-hours, he also cartoons as a hobby.
For more information, go to twemoryauthor.com

21 January 2017

Join the Global Reading Challenge for 2017

GRC 2017 challenges readers to venture outside their usual reading boundaries.

It is usually fairly easy to get started on a global reading challenge - we've all begun our reading for the year and you will be able to identify at least one of the continents that your reading has come from.
The hard thing with the Global Reading Challenge is always completing the challenge you have set yourself.

There are 7 continents, including the one you have "set" yourself.
The Easy challenge asks you to read one title from each continent, the Medium challenge requires 2, and the Expert challenge 3. If you set yourself the Expert level you could possibly read books from 21 countries or states.
I set  myself another challenge of including only crime fiction.

So why not enrol in the Challenge today. Do it here.

Participants are asked to contribute to the lists of books by returning to record their reading as they complete it. Previous Global Reading Challenges are available to look at for suggestions:
 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 

If you want some tips for record keeping, my own records are here.

18 January 2017

Review: GIRL MISSING, Tess Gerritsen

  • format e-pub
  • source: my local library
  • this edition published 3 Dec 2009
  • aka PEGGY SUE GOT MURDERED published 1994
Synopsis (Amazon)

She's young. She's beautiful. And her corpse, laid out in the office of Boston medical examiner Kat Novak, betrays no secrets - except for a matchbook clutched in one stiff hand, seven numbers scrawled inside.

When a second victim is discovered, Kat begins to fear that a serial killer is stalking the streets. The police are sceptical. The mayor won't listen. And Kat's chief suspect is one of the town's most prominent citizens.

With the death toll rising, Kat races to expose a deadly predator who is closer than she ever dreamt. And every move she makes could be her very last.

My take

This is quite a page turner. I was surprised (later) to find that it is a reprint of a much earlier novel.
It appears to be a stand-alone, with a likeable Boston medical examiner as the central character.

The bodies of young girls begin to turn up, apparently dead from a drug overdose. The bodies are found in the slum streets of one of the poorer Boston suburbs where the ME herself grew up, so she feels an affinity with them. However the drug they are dying from is still in the trial stage and not yet released for human usage. Kat Novak wants the police department to put out an alert, warning drug users that there is something lethal being sold but she meets all sorts of opposition. The town is on the brink of its bicentennial and the mayor does not want anything to rock the boat.

Meanwhile she meets a man who is looking for his daughter.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

17 January 2017

Review: WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW, Peter Corris

  • published January 2017, Allen & Unwin Australia
  • #42 in the Cliff Hardy series
  • source: my local library
  • format: e-pub
  • ISBN: 9781760294786
 Synopsis (Allen & Unwin Australia)

A missing teenager, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta. Can Cliff Hardy find out what's really going on?
Will one man's loss be Hardy's gain?

'I'd read about it in the papers, heard the radio reports and seen the TV coverage and then forgotten about it, the way you do with news stories.'

A missing girl, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta.

The police suspect the father, Gerard Fonteyn OA, a wealthy businessman. But he's hired Cliff to find her, given him unlimited expenses and posted a $250,000 reward for information.

Finally there's a break - an unconfirmed sighting of Juliana Fonteyn, alive and well. But as usual, nothing is straightforward. Various other players are in the game - and Cliff doesn't know the rules, or even what the game might be. He's determined to find out, and as the bodies mount up the danger to himself and to Juliana increases.
My Take
When Juliana Fonteyn disappears she is an underage teenager. By the time her father hires Cliff Hardy to find her the case is already 18 months old, and other investigators have tried to find her and failed. In her father's estimation they have largely been concerned with how much they will be paid. In Cliff Hardy he hopes he has found someone who really cares. And there is new evidence that Juliana is still alive - a photograph taken on Norfolk Island.

Even so the investigation doesn't go smoothly and after fruitless weeks Hardy tells Gerard Fonteyn that he is giving up. And then there is yet another breakthrough.

This relatively easy read reflects the fact that the Australian author is most accomplished. This is #42 in a very popular series, although I have read very few of them before. Something I can see I should remedy in 2017.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

About the author
Award winning Australian author Peter Corris has been writing his best selling Cliff Hardy detective stories for nearly 40 years. He's written many other books, including a very successful 'as-told-to' autobiography of Fred Hollows, and a collection of short stories about golf.

16 January 2017


Synopsis (Quercus)

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them.

Haunting, evocative and beautifully written, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN will grab you and not let you go until the last page. Full of twists and turns, with an ending you will never see coming and characters that will stay with you long after the book is finished, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is a gripping psychological mystery perfect for fans of Emma Cline's THE GIRLS and Clare Mackintosh's I SEE YOU.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she's found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie's dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del's, Hattie's high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity; about the line between innocence and culpability; about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control.

My Take

Each chapter has a heading like this: HATTIE / Saturday, March 22, 2008.
The first part of the heading tells the reader who is telling this part of the story, and the second, of course, is the date of their telling. Quite often I ignore chapter headings but in this case they are the clue not only to the timeline of the story, but also to who is speaking. Part of the reader's job is to get the timeline in order.

We see the action and events from three points of view, and of course the character who is speaking doesn't always know what the other characters know. This lets the reader fill in the gaps and accumulate what looks like a complete picture.

Hattie Hoffman has always envisaged that she will escape the claustrophobia of her home town . She wants to become an actress and go to New York. In a sense she has always been an actress: she herself recognises that she is always playing a part, changing like a chameleon according what her audience, her friends, her parents, want or expect to see.

So this is the story of Hattie's coming of age, but even as Hattie falls in love, she is playing a part, and tries to manipulate those around her, seriously underestimating the impact she is having on those around her. Her own expectations are a combination of immaturity and her growing sexuality. Hattie has a lot of secrets, and those closest to her are amazed at what comes out when Sheriff Del Goodman investigates the circumstances surrounding her death.

And just when I thought the plot was sorted, there was a very peculiar twist.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Mindy Mejia was born and raised in Minnesota, and has held a succession of jobs, from apple orchard labourer to global credit manager. THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is her first novel to be published in the UK. Find out more at www.mindymejia.com

Launching Global Reading Challenge for 2017

Today I have created a blog site for the 2017 Global Reading Challenge.

As in previous years there are three levels to the challenge, and while all my own reading will all be crime fiction, participants can choose their own fiction parameters, and 7, 14 or 21 books.
GRC2017 is organised around 6 continents and then a 7th "continent" is chosen by the participant.
Titles need to be read in 2017.

Sign up on the home page of the blog and then return throughout the year to the various continent pages to record your reading.

Please promote GRC2017 through your own blog and reading circles.
Feel free to use the logo on your own blog.


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